A turning point in the food industry

The Polish Association of Sustainable Agriculture (ASAP) has conducted a study of companies from the agri-food sector and identified a group of Polish “leaders” – defined as companies where sustainable development forms an integral part of their organization and investment priorities.

The study commissioned by ASAP and undertaken in collaboration with Accenture titled; “A turning point in the food industry. How sustainable development allows you to build business resilience in unstable times,” found that companies that had implemented a sustainable development strategy recorded an increase in operating profit by three times more than those companies that didn’t. The study also found half (50%) of the respondents are at the beginning of their journey, however, had started implementing certain measures, such as sustainable investing strategies.

“Leaders” set an example
In “leaders’” supply chains, the impact of activities on the climate, environment, society, and economy is recognized as important. “Leaders” value local action, adhere to standards, and se certificates. They developed an investment strategy to optimize and use all the resources of the organization. The financial and accounting departments have the greatest influence on whether the company develops in a sustainable manner, according to 75.5% of the surveyed managers. To achieve the goals related to sustainable development, companies will mainly invest in human development, e.g., through training (every third organization).

According to the study, 68% of “leaders” said that they are able to largely manage their reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (in energy production for their own needs), compared with 21% of “latecomers”. In the supply chain (from the energy purchase, through the tracking of the carbon footprint), the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is largely effectively monitored by 64% and 14%, respectively.

In addition, “Leaders” are more likely to actively collect organizational data in one place and use the analytics to build the solution’s potential. All the surveyed companies reported that automation and digitization of processes as commonly used technology (over 81% of responses in each of the groups). In contrast, 30% of leaders and 9% of laggards use cloud computing as an impulse for technological improvements and innovation that can support the goals of sustainable development. The data is analyzed by 88% and 70% of them, respectively.

In the supply chain, “leaders” source sustainable raw materials, take responsibility for the development and transformation of suppliers, verify how sustainable they are, and use the certification themselves. Three-quarters (74%) check the standards of their suppliers. More than one-third (35%) of the “latecomers” work in a similar way. It is worth emphasizing that almost half (49%) of “lagging behind” companies did not introduce any formal procedures or environmental/social mechanisms when selecting suppliers.

“Leaders” pay attention to packaging. Almost 47% of them pack their products in packaging, where recycled plastic accounts for 20-40%, and one in five has packaging with a recycled plastic content of 40-60%. This is a huge difference from the results of latecomers who use such packaging 15% and 5% of the time, respectively. Leaders much more often than latecomers use glass and paper packaging. This is respectively: 42% compared to 12% and 52% compared to 21%.

Polish “leaders” support the implementation and development of activities for sustainable development by being active in associations – the presence in them is the most important element for 76% of companies and, interestingly, for 63% of “latecomers”.

A chance, not a necessity
The study shows that sustainable development can protect companies against disrupted supply chains or with the chance to build financial resilience and stable, long-term growth.

Companies that are just taking their first steps towards achieving the goals of sustainable development should use the already developed good practices of leaders. A well-planned strategy of sustainable development, conscious employees and managers as well as the consistent pursuit of the goal will bring the company tangible benefits. This is the moment to say straightforward – who still perceives sustainable development as an expense, not an investment, a necessity rather than an opportunity, may lose a lot.

says Małgorzata Bojańczyk, Director of the Polish Association of Sustainable Agriculture “ASAP”.

Companies that have not yet prepared for the upcoming changes should get acquainted with the upcoming EU regulations as soon as possible. It is worth taking advantage of the knowledge of industry associations and external experts. In the difficult market environment in which companies operate today, it is positive that many respondents are beginning to understand that sustainable development activities can bring savings and even profit. Therefore, companies do not have to perceive this area as an expense, but as an investment.

– adds Małgorzata Bojańczyk.

Krzysztof Ślęczka, who leads the Consumer Goods & Services practice at Accenture in Poland said:

By making sustainability a force for change and using the right technology and business practices, agri-food organizations have an opportunity to transform how they do business, achieve sustainability goals and ultimately create greater business value and impact.